Unexpected 2021 – And I Still Don’t Know How I Feel About It

Hands up who thought 2021 will be different, especially in terms of travel? There were good parts, but there were also the bad ones. Here is my travel review for 2021.

2021 review

Whoah, and 2021 is almost over. How massively this year has been different from what I thought it would be is an understatement. There were ups and downs, and I definitely unlearned planning in advance – booking tickets two days before the flight, yes that’s a new me now!

With all that, I am still very grateful for all the experiences I had, all the places I could visit, and all the people with who I was able to spend this time. 

Want to read my other yearly travel reviews? Check the year in review here, with two latest reviews:

2021 in a nutshell

It was another year of thoroughly exploring Norway, but also finally traveling outside of it. I started it in the Canary Islands, I visited a total of 12 countries, including two new ones, climbed the highest mountains of another three countries, discovered hidden gems, and enjoyed a remote laptop lifestyle. I managed to do some things I’ve really wanted to do (van life and ice caves in Iceland, seeing the Northern Lights multiple times this year). I’m proud of others (some of my work got printed in magazines, I was chosen to attend a blogger conference and worked with tourism boards), but also trying to make a peace with the ones that didn’t work out (active volcano and a few planned trips I was really looking forward to – but hey, there is 2022 for that!).

A flash summary of some of the events from 2021:

  • falling in love with cross-country skiing in winter in Norway (took me a while, but it’s so much fun!)
  • discovering ice cave near Oslo
  • finally seeing amazing glacier ice caves in Iceland
  • witnessing an active volcano with a few weeks old lava in Iceland
  • seeing very strong Northern Lights displays multiple times, both in Norway and Iceland
  • climbing to the top of Spain at 3715m 
  • summiting top of Poland at 2503 m
  • climbing to the top of Cyprus (that wasn’t much of a climb though)
  • visiting 12 countries
  • exploring 5 islands
  • attending a blogging conference, working with tourism boards, and being published in a magazine

Have a look below for the detailed review of 2021. 

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Starting the year with volcanoes and sun

I started a year in Tenerife in a quiet village by the sea, drinking champagne and eating grapes. Visiting the Canary Islands was my first trip since the pandemic, and I loved every second of it. I enjoyed the wild interior of Gran Canaria, admired the diversity of Tenerife from the highest peak of Spain volcano Teide, and I walked the famous Volcano hiking trail in La Palma (yes, the same one where a volcano erupted just a few months after). I came back to Norway recharged and ready for the new year (and hoping for a better one than 2020). 

-20°C, ice, snow, and winter activities

Winter in Norway was a good one. Plenty of nice weather, snow, and frost made great conditions for enjoying the outdoors. I tested all my Norway winter clothing in low temperatures and finally fell in love with cross-country skiing. This was also another year, that I enjoyed Oslo in winter, especially when all the lakes and even the fjord froze so I could go ice skating.

One of my favorite discoveries, apart from skating on the frozen fjord, was the secret ice cave “ïce church”. Such a stunning place, created by nature, and accessible on a day trip from Oslo.  

I also really enjoyed a winter trip to Norefjell hotel, with kilometers of cross-country tracks, ski slopes, and an outdoor spa. 

Spring – Northern Lights, Ice hotels, marble caves, and road trips

For Easter, we traveled to northern Norway to go back to Tromso and also visit Alta. My favorite part was visiting Igloo Hotel, built from scratch from ice and snow. I was also able to see another strong Northern Lights display. There was no sleep that night!

In May, I went for a 3-week long road trip in southern Norway, visiting Trondheim, Roros, Hell (yes, it’s a real place, check out my TikTok!), Trollheimen, waterfalls in the marble caves, Kristiansund, Atlantic Road, Sunnmore Alps, Loen and more! 

Rakksetra
Rakksetra

Summer – hikes, Northern Norway and Europe trip

Summer is my favorite time for hiking and camping in Norway, so, of course, I did some hikes, as well as new via Ferrata routes. I finally went up to Galdhoppigen, the highest mountain in Norway and Scandinavia. My next bucket list item was Via Ferrata in Loenthe best Via Ferrata in Norway. I also did some other hikes, including the one to the edge of Trollvegen,  the tallest vertical wall in Europe.

The next part of summer was the time to visit family and friends back in Poland, after not seeing them for a long long time. On this trip, I also climbed the highest mountain in Poland, Rysy in the Tatra mountains, and visited Slovakia and Sardinia in Italy. 

In August, I came back to Norway and traveled back up to Northern Norway. The trip included driving from Bodo to Lofoten, and Andoya (an island between Lofoten and Senja, I can highly recommend it), and back. There was a lot of camping, hiking, discovering hidden gems, and enjoying sunny days and white nights. 

Autumn – Europe trip, cheese, blogging, ice caves, and volcanoes

Autumn saw me back in Europe. I was invited to attend the Propel conference and work with Vorarlberg Tourism Board on post-trips in Austria, where I stuffed my face with cheese and wine in little village Mellau, and explored the fantastic mountains of Montafon (including hikes and via Ferrata). In the meantime, I also did a few hikes in Switzerland and traveled to Liechtenstein (a new country for me!). 

Then, for my birthday, I came back to one of my favorite countries, Iceland, and I fulfilled my dream of going inside a real ice cave under the glacier. The plan was also to witness the erupting volcano, but a few weeks before the trip, it stopped flowing lava. Seeing the volcano was interesting for me as a geologist anyway and at night we also had another crazy good Northern Lights display. 

Winter – visiting the neighbors, towards the sun, and back to the second home

November is my least favorite month in winter in Norway, so I wasn’t particularly happy to be back to cold, rainy, and gloomy weather. I went for a few trips out of Oslo, where I finally saw some snow in the mountains of Rjukan. And since I seem to like exploring cities this time of year (Hi, Bergen in winter), I went for a weekend trip to our neighbor, Sweden, to see Chrismassy Stockholm in winter. 

That was enough of November weather for me, so I quickly checked my options and I ended up in Cyprus, my second new country of the year. The sun, the food, the mountains, the sea. It was what I needed. That’s also the third country this year where I made it to the highest peak.

After coming back to Norway, I went fully into the holiday spirit, exploring all the Oslo Christmas Markets. However, things started to not look very good, so I decided to leave for my Christmas trip a bit earlier. I was planning to finally spend Christmas with family, this time back in Scotland. The best flight from Oslo was through Alicante, Spain, so I stopped there for some time.

Filled up with the sun for the next dark weeks, after two tests, and many wine glasses later, I landed in the country of castles, whisky, and Outlander. Also known as my second home. It was time to finally celebrate Christmas with a family, and what a treat that was!

New Year's Eve in Scotland Highlands Hogmanay Isle of Skye

To finish the year, there was one more country that I had planned for the end of 2021, but this didn’t happen (a story for another time).

I hope you had a good 2021 (and if you didn’t, the next one MUST be better!), and I wish you an amazing and healthy 2022! Happy New Year!

Read more:

60 countries before turning 30 

Iceland ice caves

Norway on a budget – locals’ tips for cheap travel in Norway 


And how was your 2021? Let me know the good things in the comments!


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